Who will mention the elephant in the Petaluma City Council chambers?
The City Council has approved the 2011 Comprehensive Annual Report without any discussion of the unfunded liability of the PERS retirement fund as outlined on page 80 of the report. And while the City paid less than $5 million in contributions to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) plan in 2009, the unfunded liability grew by nearly $10 million. This means that the annual CalPERS obligation exceeds $15 million.
The elephant in the room is the more than $15 million in annual CalPERS contributions which are required to arrest the growth of the unfunded CalPERS obligations. $15 Million equals to half of the total General Fund revenue for the city of Petaluma. And Petaluma continues to fund less than $5 million of this obligation. That's why Petaluma will continue to be the Pothole Capital of California! And we continue to overcompensate public employees at an unsustainable level.
Once again this year, the City Council and staff represents the budget as being balanced ignoring over $10 million in accrued liabilities. What is even more frustrating is that the council refuses to discuss this major issue in public, much more corroborate on a long term solution. And they are not considering these costs when negotiating with the city’s various employee bargaining units.
How can our fiscal leaders solve a problem that they don’t acknowledge? They can’t! We need new leadership in Petaluma.
Bryant Moynihan is the owner of Nexus Realty Group, is a former Petaluma City Councilman and a member of the Sonoma County Taxpayers’ Association, a fiscal watchdog organization.